June 2, 2016
Bushcamp (mile 789.8) to bushcamp (mile 801.5)
Today was an ass kicker.
We woke up at the usual 5:45am but gave ourselves permission to sleep in until 6:30.
The last 2 nights had resulted in minimal sleep and our guidebooks warned about climbing Glen Pass too early and encountering lots ice.
We also figured the descent down Glen Pass would be icy since it was north facing so extra time would only make the snow softer and more enjoyable.
Boy were we wrong!
We left camp at 8am. It was already warm and the snow was getting slushy. We followed footsteps to the bottom of what looked like a loose rock wall. From there our path alternated between loose dirt, rocks and snow. At times the switchbacks were visible but most were hidden under a wall of snow.
It was not fun. And Laurie had no energy today.
We both felt like it was hotter than it had been in the desert. We were sweating and smelling ripe! It was only half a mile to the top but it felt like an eternity!
We took many breaks and slowly made it to the top at 9am. We enjoyed the views, took a few pictures, celebrated our accomplishment and headed down.
There were good tracks to follow but the snow was soft. We started postholing immediately. Sometimes as much as thigh deep.
It was exhausting.
With every step we didn’t know if we would sink or if the snow would hold or weight.
After about 400 ft Laurie saw a glissade track. Tired of postholing she gave it a go. She slid very slowly due to the wet and soft snow.
At the end of her first glissade she stood and walked about 30 ft to another glissade track. This one was much faster.
She was headed for a pile of sharp and exposed rocks.
She attempted to slow herself down by self arresting using her ice axe.
The ice axe would did not hold in the snow well but it slowed her enough to stop short of the rocks.
Laurie was ok but the snow gashed her nuckles in the process.
Andy, who had continued on in the tracks above, saw Laurie sliding on her side and then she was out of sight.
He called to her and only after she had stopped was she able to respond.
It was scary for both of us and made for an even slower descent now that Laurie preferred walking over glissading.
We postholed our way down. Going less than 1 mile per hour we eventually made it down to Rae Lakes around 12pm.
Towards the bottom and on a much gentler slope, we both glissaded. Andy went first and Laurie followed. It was important to her to have a corrective experience since glissading is the best part of hiking in the snow!
Laurie is such a strong person. You’d have to be strong to attempt something again that led to injury only a few hours earlier!
We hiked down towards Woods Creek Bridge. Once we dropped below 10,000 feet the trail was mostly snow free. Our new challenge were the streams which had turned into rushing rivers!
Andy walked across one with boots and gaiters after getting soaked feet scoping out where it would be easiest to cross. Laurie wore the crocs but the strong current took one about half way across. She was able to snatch it again before it floated away as it rested on a downed log.
A few miles up the trail Andy attempted to walk across White Fork, a ‘creek’ that was gushing, without shoes but the current was too strong and the stones too sharp. He turned around midway.
The streams swell with snow melt and are largest and strongest at the end of the day. We discussed camping and wait until morning to cross but there were no flat spots other than the trail. And it was not wide enough for our tent.
We decided to try again above the trail where the current didn’t look as strong. This time Andy wore his shoes for protection from the rocks.
Laurie again wore the crocs. She again lost a croc, this tome towards the end of the crossing but we both made it across safely.
Andy’s chin got scratched from a tree we both used to help stabilize us toward the end and strongest part of the “creek.”
We were cold and wet but relieved. We hugged and both took a large sigh of relief.
We were prepared for the snowy passes, but not for these small streams turned into rivers.
At least not this many of them.
Bear Creek and Evolution Creek are notoriously difficult on high snow years. And they are days away. However in the blogs and pictures we have seen of hikers ahead of us, even these crossings seemed manageable.
Things change in a hurry out here!
It makes us wonder what other hikers are doing that we aren’t? Do they just walk across and deal with wet soggy feet? Do these crossings scare them? I guess we will have to ask!
We were hoping to hike another 1.5 miles but there were two more “stream” crossings between us and camp. We opted to camp early and see what the streams are like in the early morning. Hopefully they are less intense.
We have learned from today’s posthole hell that we need to start early – no matter what the guidebooks say.
We have crampons and if we encounter ice we can manage. It will be easier and faster than postholing. Plus, there are at least 8 “streams” tomorrow so the earlier we cross them the better.
We have decided that we would be better off with trail runners rather than our waterproof boots. The boots are great on snow but once they get wet they don’t dry quickly.
We hope to find a way to get our trail runners sent or brought to Mammoth. It is nice that we can adapt and learn as we go.
We got to camp around 7:40pm and it is now 9:45pm.
Today was demoralizing.
Glen Pass was sketchy going up, long and arduous going down and the scary creek crossing at 7 pm was the icing on the wet cake. Neither one of us talked about getting off trail but today as a whole was not fun.
Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. Time for sleep since our alarms are set for 4:45 am. Ouch.
Tonight we are grateful for each other and bandaids.